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We were recently invited to a part of a ‘treasure hunt’ ride by Harley Davidson India. Working in a group of four (yours truly and 3 others from different publications), we had to solve a puzzle and make sense of a set of clues given by the folks at HD India to reach a destination somewhere near Jaisalmer, some 300 km from our starting point in Jodhpur. And to cover those 300 km, we had a variety of bikes available from their Indian stable. Cracking the clues, we reached our destination a little past sunset to join two other teams of auto journos who were already there.
The final set of clues gave revealed our final destination for the day!
The treasure ultimately hunted out was the new Sportster 1200 Custom that was launched on that evening against the grand backdrop of the Suryagarh Palace Hotel. The 1200 Custom joins the Sportster range in the Harley Davidson India family where it will sell alongside the Iron 883 and the oh-so-gorgeous Forty-Eight. The other member of the Sporster range, the SuperLow which also happened to be the most affordable HD after the Street 750, was discontinued recently.
Vikram Pawah, Managing Director, Harley-Davidson India on the 1200 Custom during the launch
The new Harley Davidson Sportster 1200 Custom will come to India via the CKD route to be assembled at their Bawal Plant and is priced at INR 8.9 lakh ex-showroom Delhi, which puts it 50K below the Forty-Eight and 1.5 lakh above the Iron 883. What you get for the 8.9 lakh rupees is classic cruiser styling with a round headlamp, low seat, slightly raised handlebar, and tons of chrome. Other goodies on offer are the tastefully designed 5-spoke alloy wheels, which have a steel coating on them. Also adding to the visual bulk of the bike is the biggish teardrop shaped tank. Visually the most distinct feature of the 1200 Custom is its fat front end, which primarily comes from the Michelin Scorcher rubber with a roundish profile. The saddle looks spacious enough to accommodate even the biggest of bottoms without much fuss, though we cannot say the same about the pillion seat which is comfortable but wide enough and requires a pillion backrest if you don’t want to see your pillion falling off of the bike in case of sudden acceleration! The instrument cluster is a round shaped one, which houses an analogue speedometer along with a small digital window that displays gear position, clock, distance-to-empty, tachometer and trip meter in digital format. The switch gear assembly on either side of the handlebar is the familiar Harley one, which uses top quality plastic and has a good solid feel to it. The overall fit and finish leaves nothing to worry about.
Powering this latest Harley in the country is the 1200cc, air-cooled, V-Twin Evolution engine, which makes a healthy 96 Nm of torque at 3500 rpm. This is mated to a 5-speed gearbox that transmits the power to the rear wheel via a belt drive. The bhp figures, as customary with cruisers, were not disclosed by Harley Davidson. There is generous amount of chrome sprinkled over the engine covers as well. The same engine also powers the Harley-Davidson Forty Eight. Thumb the starter and the engine comes to life vividly with a sweet rumbling exhaust note as it settles to idling.
Photo: Harley Davidson India
You realize the compactness of the 1200 Custom as soon as you sit on it. No, it doesn’t feel tiny but also doesn’t intimidate the rider with its bulk either. The low seat height also adds to the rider confidence. The rider sits with his/ her leg positioned comfortably on the forward set foot pegs and the hands on the slightly raised handlebars. And as soon as get used to the bike you realize how nimble it is. The 268 kg of mass moves ahead smoothly with a gentle twist of the wrist and you realize soon enough how much fun it is have 96 Nm of torque that is available at just around 3500 rpm. You get a meaty low and mid-range. Getting in the triple digit speed range was effortless where it felt firmly planted and seemed to be capable of cruising at around 120 kmph mark the whole day without any visible stress to the engine at all. You do feel some vibrations, but not enough that you can’t live with. The narrow roads of Rajasthan with a generous sprinkle of desert dust held us back from trying to test the top whack. The suspension setup felt a little on the stiffer side and negotiating big bumps and potholes was an event in itself. The smaller ones were dispatched with utter ease though.
The brakes felt adequate and had a nice and reassuring bite to them. Sadly, there is no ABS option as of now but will soon be introduced on the 1200 Custom as per the folks at Harley Davidson.
So if you are out in the market with around 9 Lakh rupees in your pocket and are looking for a nice mid-range cruiser, take a test ride of the new Harley Davidson Sportster 1200 Custom. We do believe that the chances of that test ride converting into a purchase decision would be quite high if you keep your expectations realistic. What you get for those 9 lakh rupees is a bike that is compact, yet has good presence on the road. It is planted at high speed straight line runs and feels agile and nimble to tackle city traffic with relative ease. It has that big bike feel to it, yet it doesn’t intimidate you. The saddle is comfortable and spacious. The overall ride quality is good. Though the ground clearance of just 105 mm and the lack of ABS do take some shine off of the deal.